Gangnam Station "Random" MurderOn May 17th, 2016, a 23-year-old woman died after being stabbed in a public bathroom in the Gangnam District of Seoul, South Korea. Due to the early hour (a little after 1AM), the police were easily able to identify the victim and the perpetrator from a security camera footage that had been set up in the hallway. They arrested the perpetrator later in the morning at 10AM. The perpetrator was identified as Kim Sung-Min, then 34-years-old. The murder weapon was in his possession at the time of the arrest. Kim denied all allegations at first but eventually confessed to the murder of the 23-year-old woman. This became known as the Gangnam Station “Random” Murder (강남역 묻지마 사건). The name came later. Despite its name, the murder did not take place at the station but at a nearby bar. It is also known as the “Seocho District Public Toilet Murder Case”, because the public bathroom where this murder occurred is closer to Seocho District than Gangnam, Gangnam Station Murder Case and the Gangnam Station Femicide. Regardless, in this write-up, I will refer to this case as Gangnam Station “Random” Murder. Late at night on May 16th, 2016, Kim is seen on camera loitering in front of the bathroom where the incident took place. The first floor of the building was a bar. The second floor was a karaoke room. And the bathroom was between floors on the landing of the stairs leading to the second floor. For an hour from around 11:42PM, facing the stairs that led to the ground floor, Kim watched as patrons used the bathroom. Six women and ten men went in and out. Afterwards, Kim entered the bathroom. The bathroom was unisex and had two stalls. One stall for a man, the other for a woman. Kim went into the men’s stall, sat down on the toilet and waited. From the time Kim entered the bathroom until 1:07AM when the victim entered, six additional men came and used the bathroom. When Kim heard the victim go in the stall next to him, he exited his stall and stood in front of the bathroom sink, waiting for her to come out. Kim stabbed the victim several times in the left side of her chest and shoulders before fleeing the scene. When the 23-year-old woman failed to return from the bathroom after 30 minutes, her boyfriend and his friend became concerned and went to find her. They discovered the 23-year-old in the bathroom and called an ambulance. The victim was transported to the hospital where she died soon after. When he first arrested, Kim stated “women always ignore me so I hid in the bathroom because I wanted to kill a woman” and word spread through social media and news outlets that it was a hate crime. Kim Sung-Min Kim (then 34) had a lengthy history of mental illness. According to the police reports, Kim was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the summer of 2008 and was hospitalized for one month in 2008, six months in 2011, six months in 2013, and six months in 2015-16 for treatment. In 2016, his delusions and auditory hallucinations worsened. Kim was told that without medication, the symptoms for schizophrenia would become worse. However, after a fight with his father in March, Kim left home and had stopped taking medication. At the time of the murder, Kim was homeless. He had a job in a restaurant kitchen where he was able to acquire the knife used in the murder. Days leading up to May 17th, witnesses stated that Kim showed unusual behavior such as ‘not changing clothes’ and ‘not washing’. Based on his testimony, the police believed Kim intentionally planned and targeted women for the murder. From May 19th to May 20th, criminal profilers interviewed Kim. When asked about his animosity towards women, Kim replied ‘women intentionally walk slowly in front of me to make me late’ and ‘women toss cigarette butts in front of me’. The profilers concluded that Kim showed classic signs of schizophrenia and on May 23rd, the police put out a statement that due to Kim’s mental illness, he would be charged a “random” murder. In South Korea, a “random” crime occurs when the police cannot find a connection between the victim and the perpetrator. The victim and Kim Sung-Min did not know each other. The victim was “random”. And because the perpetrator suffered from schizophrenia and did not have a clear motive, this was a “random” murder. The Korean NeuroPsychiatric Association criticized this announcement. They stated that Kim needed an actual psychiatric evaluation and cautioned against the possibility of negative sentiments towards patients with mental illnesses in a conservative society. However, the prosecutors agreed with the police. When asked about the possibility of the Gangnam Station “random” murder being a hate crime, the prosecutors responded that although Kim had negative feeling towards women, he did not “hate all women”. The prosecutors stated that on May 15th, a woman tossed a cigarette butt which hit Kim’s shoe. They believed that the incident was the catalyst for murder. On October 14th, 2016, Kim was sentenced with 30 years in prison along with orders to wear an ankle monitoring device for 20 years and to receive medical treatment. Kim later appealed. On April 13th, 2017, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Korea upheld the 30 year sentence as well as the conditions for the ankle monitoring device and medical treatment. The identity of the victim has never been revealed out of respect for her family. -- Today marks the fifth anniversary of Gangnam Station “Random” Murder. Every year, Gangnam Station’s number 10 exit becomes a memorial where mourners leave flowers and wallpaper the exit with colorful post-its expressing their condolences for the victim. This year, due to COVID, her memorial has been moved to the online for visitors to write their own post-its. Seoul Women Society (서울여성회) plans to observe the COVID restrictions in place and will read some of the messages out loud in a small group. Source: (Korean) (English)